Raiders can’t get air attack off ground


Another day, another practice session that doesn’t remind anyone of the glory days of Sid Gillman. At this point, the Kerry Collins of 2004-05 is starting to look good.

If you’ve been reading my Twitter page, it’s clear the Raiders’ passing game has left a lot to be desired more days than not.

Too may incompletions that stray too far from the target. Too many dropped passes. Too many routes cut short with receivers looking back with a surprised look on their face.

First, an admission. Many of the routine pass plays which wind up as completions don’t make it to Twitter, so in the end it’s not as bad as it sounds. One reason is I can’t type that fast on a phone keyboard.

The other is that in training camp, especially during shorts and shells and seven-on-seven drills, the incompletions and interceptions are the story, because good teams light it up in those situations.

The Raiders are not lighting it up. The last few days, in fact, they seem to have regressed a bit. They’re certainly not any better to my untrained eye than they were a week and a half ago.

Quarterback Jason Campbell continues to throw some very nice passes as well as some others which he doesn’t seem to have timed up with his wide receivers. It’s a similar story for Kyle Boller, although Boller can’t throw on the run as well as Campbell.

Bruce Gradkowski is just getting back on the field with a groin strain and Colt Brennan is currently hoping for a few scraps.

Zach Miller remains the most reliable receiver. No surprise there. Louis Murphy makes the most impressive physical plays, but also misses a few chances at sensational chances _ missing them by a fraction _ and dropping some easy ones.

Darrius Heyward-Bey isn’t dropping passes at the rate he did last year, but disappears for stretches at a time.

Todd Watkins had one terrific catch from Boller deep Sunday, turning outside, then inside to snatch a ball out of the air.

Nick Miller is doing what he did last year, Yamon Figurs made some plays against Dallas but struggled on Sunday.

Chaz Schlilens is getting back into the mix, made a few catches Sunday, and continues to be the one receiver who makes it look smooth and easy when he is healthy and feeling good. Which hasn’t been nearly often enough.

Asked if the pass offense is where he thought it would be at this point or if there are too many balls hitting the ground, Cable said, “I still feel that there are too many on the ground. We fight that constantly. We’re certainly improved in that area, but we’ve got to keep cleaning it up and cleaning it up, there’s days where you feel you’re making improvement on that and there’s days you feel like, OK, we still have a lot of work to do.’’

Defensive backs have talked about the challenges of defending the schemes put in by offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, but of late those routes and concepts have done little to make for a more productive offense.

True, they’re better than they were a year ago. But considering what was going on a year ago with the guy wearing No. 2, they’d just about have to be.

Either the Raiders start making some serious progress in a short period of time, or expect this year’s M.O. to be a team that relies on running the ball, playing defense and throwing sparingly until they join a league where most teams live by the pass.

More news, notes and quotes:

— It was family day for players and coaches at the Napa Marriott, with children, girlfriends and significant others on hand for practice. As a result, minimal interviews following practice.

Nice touch by the Raiders this year _ bringing out tables with umbrellas and chairs to the area in front of the field house with a temporary cabana with barbecued food, lemonade and iced tea.

Many players were playing with their kids even as Cable was going through his post-practice briefing.

— Great move by Murphy on a third-and-10 sideline grab, catching the ball at the stake and leaving Stanford Routt on the ground with a spin move to get the first down.

— Jacoby Ford was on the field for the first time since Aug. 7 but was being eased in. He fielded a few punts, ran a few routes. Cable said he hopes Ford will play against Chicago Saturday. Same for Schilens.

— The three players Cable ruled as “questionable’’ for Chicago were LB Sam Williams (concussion), WR Paul Hubbard (hamstring) and QB Charlie Frye (hand). He said Darren McFadden “possibly’’ could be questionable to face the Bears, but that McFadden was improving.

Considering DE Jay Richardson (knee) will see a specialist Monday, according to Cable, you can probably add him to that list. Frye will see a specialist Tuesday.

— Since it appears Mario Henderson is entrenched at left tackle, and Jared Veldheer is playing left tackle and center, two questions come to mind: 1) Is it getting to be time to have Veldheer play one position if you’re thinking about letting him compete for a starting job; and 2) Could he eventually play right tackle?

Here’s how Cable answered:

“I think if he fit there, if he keeps developing where he becomes one of your top five players and you’ve got to find your spot for him,’’ Cable said. “The real bottom line to your question is he’s got to continue to grow. It (the Dallas game) was not bad, but there’s a lot more that’s needed in order to get it into that sort of mind fame.’’

Translation _ he’s not ready.

— One way the passing game has come along, which could pay dividends down the road _ linemen have an idea of Campbell’s depth in the pocket, which should help protection.

“Not to talk bad about JaMarcus or anything like that, but there is more definition with Jason,’’ Henderson said. “If he says he’s dropping back three steps, it’s going to be three. If he says it’s seven, it’s going to be seven. (Campbell) is good at what he does as far as footwork.’’

— The Raiders will have a padded practice Monday morning. Cable said he was impressed with the physicality against Dallas, and the better the Raiders play in terms of tackling and hitting in the preseason, the less inclined they’ll be to hit in training camp.

“My thought on pads or no pads has been, A), our health, and B), just the quality of work we’re getting, whether we’re in ‘em or out of ‘em, and this team has shown maturity in that they can go out and get work done and not have to be in pads to do it all the time,’’ Cable said.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer